How does Shakespeare portray love in A Midsummer Night's Dream?

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As the other answer to this question discusses the play's examination of the complicated but empowering nature of love in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream , I'd like to take a different approach (the other answer is entirely correct, of course; I just want to avoid repeating the same information)....

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As the other answer to this question discusses the play's examination of the complicated but empowering nature of love in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, I'd like to take a different approach (the other answer is entirely correct, of course; I just want to avoid repeating the same information). For my pat, I believe that the fantastical, magical, and bucolic backdrop of the play suggests that human love is in tune with the mysterious and magical qualities of the natural world.

Most of the play's main action takes place in the woods outside Athens, an ethereal realm haunted by fairies. Following the tangled relationships of the four main characters, we're introduced to the whimsical and magical world of Robin "Puck" Goodfellow, King Oberon, and Queen Titania, a fantastical place of love potions, fairies, spells, and dreams. Set against this backdrop, the relationships in the play take on a magical, dreamlike quality, and that fits perfectly with the setting. By setting his tale of love in such a magical place, Shakespeare suggests that the emotion of love is itself akin to the dreamlike beauty of the natural world, and so, just as we cannot fully understand the fairy world, love remains mysterious and fantastical. This quality is one of the aspects of the play that makes its depiction of love so enchanting.   

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As Lysander says, "The course of true love never did run smooth."  Love in A Midsummer Night's Dream is portrayed as complicated and difficult, yet Shakespeare does it in a way that is humorous and lighthearted.  In this play love often brings out the worst in people, yet in the end it's what brings everyone back together.  Love has the ability to spellbind people as Shakespeare represents symbolically through Puck's actions, and we see how intensely complicated it can be when it nearly tears apart Hermia's family and causes argument between the four main human characters.  Love permeates all aspects of life in this play and we see the awesome power it has over human emotion, psychology, and behavior.  Of course, no matter what happens, love prevails in the end validating Lysander's quotation at the beginning of the play.

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Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream deals a lot with people falling in and out of love with each other. Some are manipulated by love potion, but others make a conscious choice about whom to love. For example, Helena learns a lot about love when she is duped by Demetrius. He chooses to fall in love with Helena by showering her with gifts and vows of love, but when he sees an opportunity to marry Hermia, he quickly drops her. Is love so easily tossed aside? Helena proclaims the following about love as follows:

"And therefore is Love said to be a child,

Because in choice he is so oft beguil'd.

As waggish boys in game themselves forswear,

So the boy Love is perjur'd everywhere" (I.i.242-245).

From this passage, it's as though love is a child who makes his choice to love someone based on lies. Men, therefore, are boys who play with love like it is a game, but in the process, they become liars. Through Helena, then, Shakespeare suggests that love is a choice, fickle, and easily manipulated to pursue one's own purposes.

Another example of love being manipulated in order for someone to get gain is when Oberon and Puck make Titania fall in love with a donkey. Actually, they turn Nick Bottom's head into that of a donkey's and drug Titania with a love potion to distract her so Oberon can take the Indian boy. It's interesting what Bottom says after Titania professes her love for him in the following passage: 

"And yet, to say the truth, reason and love keep little company together nowadays" (III.i.124-125).

Through Bottom's line, there seems to be wisdom in acknowledging that people who are in love do not seem to use reason when making choices about love. Again, back to Helena, she would rather be treated like a dog by Demetrius rather than be ignored. Her reasoning is muddy because she sacrifices too much for her love only to receive nothing in return. To help Helena, Oberon decides to place the love potion on Demetrius's eyes to change his mind from loving Hermia back to loving Helena. It is possible, therefore, that Shakespeare is saying that love is a choice that can be easily manipulated with just a little persuasion. And if love is easily manipulated, then it is also fickle and fragile.

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